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How much do you exert uphill and recover down?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

How much do you exert uphill and recover down?

Old 11-05-05, 04:32 PM
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Ibikeowa
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How much do you exert uphill and recover down?

I've been biking for about a year and have lots of questions, but I'll start with this one. It seems to me that one can increase an overall average speed by really pushing on the hills so that you are almost exhausted at the top, and then recovering on the downhill. That way you reduce those slow speeds that kill your average (more than fast speeds help, over the same distance) and you waste less energy fighting air resistance on the way down. Seems like solid theory, but how do you all handle this in practice? (Apologies in advance if this standard bike knowledge.)
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Old 11-05-05, 04:37 PM
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If you start racing, or riding with a fast group, you will find that resting on the downhill will get you droped pretty quick. Most guys will hammer up it and then get in a big gear on the way down, at a lower cadence to recover a little, but still pumping away.
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Old 11-05-05, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by EdZ
If you start racing, or riding with a fast group, you will find that resting on the downhill will get you droped pretty quick. Most guys will hammer up it and then get in a big gear on the way down, at a lower cadence to recover a little, but still pumping away.
Will they have the same approach in a TT? Racing and group riding might be a bit different because the group could block the wind on the way down for most riders.

Last edited by Ibikeowa; 11-05-05 at 05:05 PM.
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Old 11-05-05, 05:06 PM
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I just started riding ( a month ago) and I can say I put everything to climb and I try to rest on the way down, but when I'm in a group I always get droped on the way down it stinks .... so even on down hill i pump it up all the way not to get droped !!
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Old 11-05-05, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Ibikeowa
Will they have the same approach in a TT? Racing and group riding might be a bit different because the group could block the wind on the way down for most riders.
more so on a TT. It hammer time, all the time!
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Old 11-05-05, 06:02 PM
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You are absolutely right that the fastest way to cover a fixed distance is to work harder up the hills than going down them. The reason is wind resistance. Aerodynamic drag increases proportionally to the square of velocity, so the faster you go, the more work you pump into overcoming drag, and the extra work is just plain wasted. However, the work you do to lift your body up a hill is directly proportional to the height, and you recover it going back down the other side, so going faster doesn't make that process less efficient. The steeper the hill, the more pronounced the gain from working harder going up it. Does Iowa have hills?

I also find that riding with a fast group, more people get dropped on the uphills than the down. You *really* have to hammer on the downhill to drop someone coasting in your wake, and you're more likely to do it by cornering aggressively than with mere speed.
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Old 11-05-05, 07:40 PM
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Also you want to work harder up the hills and raise your HR above your LT because the uphill costs you more time than you gain on the downhill. Let's say your average speed is 25mph on a TT and you slow down by 5mph on the uphill and increase it to 5mph on teh downhill. These will ONLY cancel each other out if you spend the same amount of time on the uphill than on the down. But what happens in reality is that you spend more time at -5mph going up than you gain by +5mph on the downhill. Also going down a hill, due to the aero-drag, you may not even be able to make that same spread, you might only be able to hit +4mph.

Near the end of this thread Intervals/Cornering questions, I posted my strategy for a hilly TT. It goes into more detail than I've outlined here with HR and MPH targets and acceleration-rates.

Now if you're in a race, it's also similar. You'll want to work harder up the hills to go anaerobic because the benefits of the draft is diminished; you'll be able to drop the weaker guys who can hang on the straights without any problems. The fastest way to go up a hill is at a fast steady average-speed above your LT such that you blow up right at the top. Sure, you can go at 15-15-15-15-17-19-21mph with an interval to max-HR near the end, but because you had spent so much time at 15mph, the overall time gained by the interval at the end is not very much. However, if you go at 17-17-17-17-17-18-19mph, you'll have covered that hill in less time.

Then once you're at the top, hop in behind someone and draft the whole way down. Due to the higher-speeds of 40-55mph on the downhills, the draft saves you A LOT of power and the guy in front can crank as hard as he wants, he's not going to be able to drop you. You only need to get close to within 5-10ft. So sit tight and recover and get ready for the next uphill to drop that guy... heh, heh...

BTW - they say that in the TDF, the crazy downhillers can gain just as much time on the downhill as the climbers gain on the uphills... that's some insane downhilling!!!

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 11-05-05 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 11-05-05, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by lws
You are absolutely right that the fastest way to cover a fixed distance is to work harder up the hills than going down them. The reason is wind resistance. Aerodynamic drag increases proportionally to the square of velocity, so the faster you go, the more work you pump into overcoming drag, and the extra work is just plain wasted. However, the work you do to lift your body up a hill is directly proportional to the height, and you recover it going back down the other side, so going faster doesn't make that process less efficient. The steeper the hill, the more pronounced the gain from working harder going up it. Does Iowa have hills?

I also find that riding with a fast group, more people get dropped on the uphills than the down. You *really* have to hammer on the downhill to drop someone coasting in your wake, and you're more likely to do it by cornering aggressively than with mere speed.
Thanks. That's exactly what I had in mind. That's why I'm surprised that a couple answers said one should pedal hard all the time, or, in other words, ride with constant power. Letting my love of calculations get the better of me, I fiddled a bit on Kreuzotter's calculator (https://www.kreuzotter.de/english/espeed.htm) to get the following numbers for going up and down a half-mile hill with a 4% grade. 200 Watts up and down yields a total time of 222 seconds. 212 Watts up and 165 Watts down will still yield an average of 200 W (more time spent on the way up!), but take 216 s. 270 W up and 50 W down (again, average of 200 W) would take 194 s.

Of course that only considers the physics. Maybe our bodies can put out more overall if they continue to operate at constant power.

It would be interesting to see if good TTers actually do adjust their power on shorter hills. Wouldn't be that hard with a video and a topo map.

My part of Eastern Iowa gets elevation change more from valleys than hills, but we usually are riding on some incline. My routes have a couple 150 ft, 4% or greater inclines, and a bunch of them smaller than that. I imagine the size of the hill would matter quite a bit, since you couldn't sustain an above-average power for very long up a big hill.
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Old 11-05-05, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
... Near the end of this thread Intervals/Cornering questions, I posted my strategy for a hilly TT. It goes into more detail than I've outlined here with HR and MPH targets and acceleration-rates...
Nice post in that thread. That's just what I was looking for.
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Old 11-05-05, 08:03 PM
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I huff and puff my way to the top(gear range from 34-19 down to 34-25) then I put it in high gear and mash my way all the way down. I get almost as much of a workout going 33-40mph down Monte Sano as I do going 6-12mph up.

The only time I get a good cadence going with 50-12 is when I'm going downhill. Otherwise, I'm never higher than 50-15.

My cadence on Monte Sano has improved considerably; I used to not be able to get up the thing at all; now it's low gear to clear the hard part then go up three gears at a mid 90's cadence. I like to push that part till my legs feel like rubber. I'm in training for Keel Mt. Keel Mt. is my Knave.

(Monte Sano is ~3.6 miles at avg. grade of 5.8%. Keel Mt. is 1.54 miles @ 10.6% grade; I die soon after the Right Turn of Death near the top, just past the "Got Epo?" grafitti)

Last edited by bbattle; 11-05-05 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 11-05-05, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bbattle
I huff and puff my way to the top(gear range from 34-19 down to 34-25) then I put it in high gear and mash my way all the way down. I get almost as much of a workout going 33-40mph down Monte Sano as I do going 6-12mph up.

...
Yeah. Even if hammering down hills isn't the best strategy for a TT, it sure is a great strategy for having fun!
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Old 11-05-05, 09:24 PM
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